Who Is Anthony Stephens?

The Life and Death of a College Grad


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Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

1-12-09 (continued):
It’s even worse with the guards, because they actually are in “the shit” everyday, they’re just too clouded with fake-superiority to see what’s really what.
They swagger around like they’re the ones in control, but they’re blind. They, more than anybody, see the prison groups as “prison gangs,” like a bunch of high school kids running together to boost each other’s self esteem.
I don’t blame them either, I’d think the same thing if I were in their position.
The groups, they do look pretty rough. Gangster. Prison tats, shanks, the whole nine. But you gotta be educated about this shit.
I’m telling you, American History X will school you.
I’ve been here now for long enough to see what the fuck’s really going on: these gangs, their member initiations have got nothing to do with being part of the group as a whole.
The act of joining a gang serves one purpose: to ease the new member’s own state of mind.
People aren’t so unselfish that they’d stab somebody in the back just so that other person’ll be safer. They do it because they hope that, if the situation comes up where things are reversed, that person’ll do the same for them. Because they couldn’t live afterwards (literally) if they hadn’t at least tried.
Its security, the same reason kids cry during sleepovers at their friend’s house or on their first day of school.
Watch a little boy whose mom just drove off and left him standing in the playground of his new elementary school, around a bunch of other kids and way-too-happy teachers that he’s never seen before. Look at that kid’s face. You know what you’re going to see?
Fear, that’s what. That kid’s scared out of his fucking mind.
That kid, alone on the playground for the first time, he’s scared to death because he’s having that moment of realization that everybody has at some point in their lives, that most people spend the rest of their life trying to cope with.
He’s realizing that same mom who’ll stab somebody in the back for him, she’s not always going to be there.
And when she isn’t, it never really mattered that she was ever there to begin with.
That kid’s mother, she’s not there right then while he’s standing on that playground with his Transformers lunch box and oversized book bag; she’s not there to protect him when one of the other kids decides it’d be fun to pick up a rock and beam the boy in the back of the head.
And figuring that out, that he’s completely fucking alone, that little boy’s so lost he just sits down, pisses his pants, and cries until he can’t see nothing anymore, until he falls asleep with a crying-headache so he can at least dream that somebody’s shelling out beat-downs in his name.
Because that’s all he can do. Dream.
That’s the scale. You’re born alone and you die alone, and all that time in between’s spent pretending that both ends don’t exist.
And how much better can you deal with that depressing shit than by banding together, fighting the inevitable?
We’re all self-centered animals. That kid on the playground, he’d stab somebody for his mom just as quick as she’d do it for him, but only as long as he knew the unwritten contract would never be broken.
That agreement, its safety in numbers.
It’s Boyz n the Hood. It’s Goodfellas. It’s Scarface. Casino. The Godfather, all three of them. Worker’s unions. Corporations. Sports teams. Native tribes in Africa. Al-Qaeda. The U.S. government. Any government. Fuck, the Catholic Church. It’s all the same.
What I’m saying, I guess, is that prison gangs seem childish, but they’re just human. Like an adult security blanket.
And I’m not saying they’re immature; these men got the right idea if you ask me.
Sleeping good at night’s all about sanctuary, all about peace of mind.
Plus, with these gangs, you don’t have to worry about being lonely either. Everybody’s got a deep need for companionship, whether they admit it or not, and these men figured out a way to satisfy that need in an oppressive establishment without having to cry or lie down on some shrink’s couch. That’s not an easy achievement.
By joining together, they’re making sure they’ve got somebody to turn around and say something—anything—to without being scared that person’s not going to say something back.
Which, sometimes, can be worse than death.


Interview with Jesús Hernandez: Part 2

12 July 2011

– For the most part, yeah.

– He came in about eight times before he went AWOL. Twice a week for a month, and every time his eyes grew darker, his beard heavier, his voice deeper.

– Reading his file and the pretty normal things he did before he started burning down houses, it was like reverse metamorphosis to see him each visit. Like watching a butterfly turn back to a worm.

– I set him up with a job and checked in on him now and again where he was staying at with his delinquent cousin, Price—you talked to him yet?

– Bad news, that one there. Didn’t like Bishop staying with him at all, but he didn’t really have a choice.

– Well, everything seemed to be going decent for a little while. Until that one day.

– Less than two weeks after his first day on the job, barely out of training yet, I get a call from my buddy Frank at Key Food, find out Bishop’d already been fired.

– Or quit, whatever. Don’t remember the details, but he lasted all of two weeks at the place. I called in a favor to get him that job, and he embarrassed me in front of a good friend.

– Frank Doucoure. Over at Key Foods in Queens, near the bridge.

– No problem. Like I was saying though, I knew. I was just waiting for Bishop to shoot himself in the foot.

– I’m not a babysitter. These are grown ass men out here. They want to go back to prison, that’s their prerogative. I have a wife and son to feed and love, so I just do my job and hope that everybody else does theirs.


Interview with Frank Doucoure

who is anthony stephens?

Frank Doucoure is the general manager of a Key Foods Grocery Store in Queens, New York, where Earl Bishop was an employee for fifteen days before violating his parole. Standing in the storage area of the store, Mr. Doucoure hold a clipboard in his hand, checking off boxes as he speaks

16 August 2011

– Fucking kid, Bishop.

– Me and Jesús, we grew up together, you know? Owe the man my life.

– So I does him a favor with the Bishop kid, bring him in as a bag boy. Tells him he moves up to cashier in a few months if things go smooth, after a little whiles I might have an assistant manager position for him.

– Think about it, you know?

– Kid’s fresh out the pen and not only’s I’m offering him a job, but it’s got room for growth, expansion. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

– But no. This Bishop kid, he throws it right back in my face. Fucking kids nowadays.

– Bishop seems like he’ll work out for a while. A few issues with appearance. Kept telling him to get rid of the beard, but everyday he’d show up with his face looking like a black bear’s ass, no apologies.

– I let some things slide. Like I says, it’s a favor to Jesús.

– But then, one day, about two weeks after I hires the kid, Bishop’s bagging some guy’s groceries in lane ten and the guy’s telling him he wants his eggs in their own bag.

– Bishop’s packing the guy’s eggs in with the canned fruits and shit. Legitimate request, right?

– You got’s the right, if you’re a customer in my store, to ask for your eggs in their own bag.

– But, no. Bishop flips on the guy. Grabs his collar, pulls him over the counter and slams his head into the register.

– Poor cashier, this little high school girl named Katie—real cute, sweet girl, reminds me of my daughter—she’s shaking over in the corner whiles Bishop’s acting like a raving lunatic.

– Then he just walks out, leaves this mess for everybody else to clean up, a busted cash register and a customer with a bloody mouth and a broken nose.

– I’m telling you, these kids, got no respect no more for nobody, not even each other. Turning into a fucking madhouse out there, end a the world type of shit. I’m telling you, my generation, we was the end of sanity as we know it.


Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 16

11 July 2011

– Earl had this routine, bruh.

– Nigga’d fall asleep on my couch at like midnight, one a.m., then wake up at the crack a dawn and just sit at the balcony and stare out at the street for like an hour.

– Caught his ass doin’ that shit first mornin’ after I picked his ass up, starin’ at the cars and writin’ in that goddamn notebook. Ain’t even see him sittin’ there ‘til I almost tripped over his ass tryna get some juice from the fridge.

– Scared the shit outta me. Nigga just sittin’ on the ground, starin’ outside, eyes lookin’ straight dead, bruh. Straight up dead.

– He’d eat some shit if I hooked him up when I cooked for myself, don’t know what he ate the rest a the time. Nigga wasn’t home too much.

– Earl’s P.O. was a asshole, bruh. Couldn’t stand that nigga.

– Used to call my crib up all hours a night and shit, ask me ‘bout Earl, get all pissed off when I tell him I ain’t seen him.

– Used to tell him that shit even if Earl was sittin’ right there, just to fuck with him.

– Earl ain’t care, ain’t even act like he noticed. I swear, bruh, muhfuckin’ P.O.’s. Can’t stand ’em.

– Night Earl told me ‘bout all the shit, we was chillin’ at the crib and I was watchin’ TV and he just started talkin’.

– You gotta understand, son, by then, the nigga’d been at my crib for weeks and I still ain’t know why he got locked up, know what I’m sayin’?

– I’m sittin’ in my chair watchin’ Jeopardy and shit and this muhfucka just starts talkin’, like he recorded that shit and pressed play. Had to mute the TV quick just so I could hear his ass.

– I’m sittin’ there sippin’ my drank and chillin’, just gettin’ used to havin’ this nigga ‘round that kind of look like Earl but ain’t really Earl, know what I’m sayin’? I look over at him while he talkin’ and he all leaned forward, thinkin’ deep, talkin’ deep, just…talkin’. ‘Bout the whole thang ‘til he was done. Then he ain’t say another word.

– I ain’t stop him neither, ain’t say nothin’, just sat there and listened to that shit.

– He talked like I wasn’t even there anyways, like he was talkin’ to his self. Said he wasn’t goin’ talk ‘bout prison ‘cause it wasn’t worth it. Told me what he needed to talk ‘bout was what happened before he got locked up, ‘cause that shit wasn’t over with. That’s exactly what he said. he needed to talk ’bout it, ’cause it wasn’t over.

– Said he was goin’ talk about that and then he was goin’ do somethin’ ’bout it. Said he needed to get it all out, get his mind right. Keep things in perspective, he said. That’s the way he talked the whole time. Like he was tryna explain shit to his self. Like he was still tryna let that nigga Tony off the hook, in his head.

– Earl ain’t never once told me he hated Tony that whole time. He ain’t have to, though. It was all in how he was talkin’ bruh, how he kept sayin’ shit over and over again, real heated like and shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– I’m tellin’ you, nigga was seein’ red whenever Tony came up. For real. Earl was like a fuckin’ time bomb bruh.

– Aight, like, he got a job couple weeks after he got back, at this Key Food a couple a blocks from here. P.O. got Earl in as a bag boy and Earl was chillin’, got a pretty nice check after the first week and bought a couple shirts, some food for the crib. Appreciate that shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– Seemed like the brother was on the up and up. Couple weeks he did that shit, and I was thinkin’ maybe he was goin’ be alright.

– Then, he come home one day and his work apron all torn and shit, shirt hangin’ out his pants and he got blood stains near the shoulder. Face so dark and pissed off, nigga coulda blended in with night.

– I ask him what happened, all he tells me’s he quit.

– That’s it.

– I ain’t ask him no mo’ after that ‘cause, bruh, I still know my cuz, you know what I’m sayin’? I know that nigga, even if prison did change his ass. And when he came home after quittin’ Key Food and he was all pissed off, I knew it ain’t have shit to do with that job.

– It was Tony, bruh.

– That’s the day that shit busted through, all that heat Earl had built up in him. That’s the day the nigga just said fuck it.


Interview with Felicia Veicht: Part 2

25 June 2011

– I’ve always fancied young men.

– Younger than me. Since the day I turned thirty and realized that a woman’s desires rise exponentially as a man’s fails.

– And these men nowadays, with their youthful, vibrant bodies and so much…vigor. I’m assuming that Les Palmer was no different.

– Catherine helped me quite frequently around this gallery for almost two years before he showed up. And she was depressed everyday of those two years.

– I offered her everything. As one of very few of my family members I am on speaking terms with, I could have given Catherine anything she needed to be comfortable. But alas, Catherine is a rare breed: the type of person who actually enjoys working for her own. But I could always tell the one thing she wanted more than anything was love, something I could not financially provide for her.

– She never spoke to me about it, and she wasn’t outright miserable. Most of the emotions would have been invisible to anybody else. But I have a certain…flair for that sort of thing. For seeing the other sides of people, the veiled emotions they try so desperately to keep hidden from the public.

– Catherine was disheartened until Les came around. Then she was ecstatic, for a while at least. Then, of course, she was unhappy again, as is typical of relationships.

– It was all Les. That young man had a hold over her, physically and mentally. He was an intricate one.

– I heard of him for the first time the day Catherine brought in that drawing of his and asked me what I thought of it.

– We have a trend at our gallery of splitting our exhibitions each season between veteran artists and new, aspiring talents. The more prominent names draw the crowd, and the younger artists get their evening of exposure. The gallery gets half the profits regardless.

– Catherine asked me if I would take a look at a piece of Les’s work, and I obliged because I’ve always believed the bond of family is indomitable. My niece is a decent judge of quality as well—it is a blood trait, I believe, for our women to have a good eye for that  sort of thing—so I sat here in my office chair, leaned back, lit a cigarette, and put my hand out. She placed the paper on the tip of my fingers and I turned it towards my face and [Ms. Veicht pauses, shaking her head] absolutely stunning.

– Astonishing, truly astonishing.

– Astonishing is not the type of word I tend to throw around lightly.

– What Catherine brought to me that day was truly art, at its finest.

– I didn’t know then that Mr. Palmer was her bed buddy. I believe Cathy was going for the objective viewpoint in not telling me. Which, though an understandable move on her part, was unnecessary and willfully deceitful, hence the reason it is a sore point for me. But I digress.

– If I had known she was sleeping with the next Brett Whiteley, it still would not have deterred me from viewing Mr. Palmer’s work as a genuine masterpiece. Mr. Palmer had managed to take a sketching pencil—a simple 2B, it seemed—and create a landscape of desolation so potent, my eyes watered the moment they lay upon it.

– It was a fairly simple image, night time, with the focal point of the piece directed more upon the sky and the gray moon than the burning house at the bottom. The old truck out front was like decoration on a Christmas tree.

– Not just any drawing. I received my Master’s in Art History from Duke University, and I’ve enrolled in more art appreciation courses than you could put your mind around. Fire is, by far, the hardest thing to depict in a piece of work. Impossible to do in black and white. Absolutely impossible. Except, it seemed, for Mr. Palmer.

– The burning house was of photographic quality. So real it was almost hard to look at.

– Bright, burning the retinas, yet I couldn’t take my eyes away.

– I asked Catherine who had created this masterpiece, and it was at that point my sixth sense kicked in and I forced her to reveal to me the true nature of her and Les Palmer’s relationship.

– My own niece, hiding something so pressing from me as a new romance with a natural artistic prodigy? That cannot be tolerated.

– If she can withhold such a significant development, what else can she do? Divulge the inner workings of my gallery to competitors?

– That’s how it starts.

– Sure, I wasn’t going to throw away the chance to exhibit such talent. But not before I gave Catherine a stern talking to. And if it were to happen again, family or not, I would be finding new help around here.

– I could not be more sincere about anything. There are no secrets in my gallery.


Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 13

26 June 2011

– When did things get complicated? [Cathy scoffs] When were they not complicated?

– The first time I really realized something was off about Tony’s—I don’t know—sanity, was the afternoon I first saw his art. Even though, I kind of believe he wanted me to see it all.

– He wouldn’t have just left the paintings and drawings out next to his bed like that if he didn’t want me to see, especially knowing I was coming over. He could have hidden them, the same way he had for all those months before that. But when I showed up, there they were, and they were beautiful. I mean, breathtaking.

– There was one of this woman sitting on a meadow staring at the sun.

– I mean, it looked like a photograph, that’s how good the detail was.

– When I asked him about it later, about the picture he’d had to use as a reference, he told me he did it from memory. And, I mean, when I found out even later that the woman was Louise, I was a little upset that she was that deeply embedded in his mind, I admit. I am a jealous person in certain situations. Who isn’t? But it was hard to look at those pictures and feel anything but awe.

– They were amazing. He was an artistic prodigy.

– I decided to show one to my aunt at her gallery, as a surprise to Tony. My aunt loved it, even though she got all pissed off at me for not telling her about Tony earlier. She’s kind of dramatic sometimes.

– Anyways, she immediately asked if there was more of his art, which there was. Dozens of pieces. It seemed that all Tony did in his free time since moving down here was paint and draw.

– He had a stack of blank canvasses under his bed in his motel room, sketch paper stacked on the bedside table, an easel set up next to his bed, and a bunch of paint and sketching pencils and charcoal. And I mean, that stuff costs money, high quality supplies. Between his unstable financial situation, the money he spent on painting materials, and his motel fees, it’s a wonder he had anything to eat.

– I seriously don’t know how he survived off of what he made doing jobs with the Mexicans. But he never complained about money, and he always seemed to have exactly what he needed.

– Because I know he wanted more, and I figured he’d be excited for the chance to move up a little through my aunt’s gallery. The people that visit there, they’re not known for being cheap. Tony could have made something out of his hobby, even though I think now that even in that beginning phase it was more than just a hobby.

– Well, I went to Tony and gave him the good news. Told him my aunt wanted to have a showing for him. I was so happy, I remember, I wanted to show him this wasn’t just a…I don’t know. A fling. It was such a weird feeling I had around him in the beginning, like I was back in high school again, way too ecstatic for a twenty-four year old. I loved and hated the feeling, but I couldn’t control it. So when I told Tony about my aunt’s offer and he flipped out on me, I couldn’t do anything but cry about it. I felt so stupid. I still do whenever I think about it actually. Like I’d really screwed things up.

– It’s weird, because part of my mind like, screams at me still that I didn’t do anything wrong, that Tony was just being a prick. But then there’s this other part that’s like…he just wanted to live his life. And I kept pushing him to go outside of his comfort zone.

– Yeah. Really crazy stuff. I’d never seen him act like that before. And, I mean, he apologized later, sure, but by then it was obvious there was something wrong with him. Normal people don’t act the way he did all the time: constantly staring off into space, edgy, ready to snap at the slightest sign of distress. He’d be happy sometimes, but it was like he was bipolar or something.

– Like this one night, I remember we went out drinking with a couple of friends from my job. We went to this local spot out by A1A, live band, drink specials, really cute place. Me and Tony danced and it was sweet—he could be really sweet sometimes, don’t get me wrong, even though that just made it worse when he wasn’t—and everything was going perfect this night until some guy came over and brushed up against me.

– Like one of those purposeful brushes, you know? Grabbed my ass a little, standard asshole behavior.

– The place was pretty crowded, so the guy acted like he just bumped into me accidentally, but it was obvious he meant to do it. The way he smiled when I turned around, it creeped me out. And, I mean, that was disrespectful on his part, sure, but it’s South Florida. You’ve got to expect that type of crap around here. Gentlemen don’t really exist anymore. I’d expect Tony to know that, sometimes, things just happen like that. You brush it off and ignore it. I was with him, not this other guy, you know?

– But no. Tony snapped, pounced on the guy and started, just, beating him. Punching him in the face, slamming his head into the ground, making all these growling noises and stuff. I mean really, really angry stuff, way angrier than the situation called for. And, I mean, I couldn’t really understand why he’d act like that.

– The thought was sweet, sure, like he was protecting me. But it didn’t even seem like that after a while. More like he’d been looking for an opportunity to just rail on somebody.

– If I hadn’t known the bartender there, asked him not to call the cops, Tony would have gotten arrested and his cover would have been blown and then what? But no, Tony didn’t think that far ahead. He just snapped.

– Yeah. I mean, I was already in love with him by then. I didn’t really have a choice.

– We couldn’t hang out with my friends after that night either, and hanging out at home with Tony just made me see even more that something was wrong with him.

– It was around that time I threatened to end things if he didn’t talk to me. I think I really scared him then. He didn’t want to be alone. Nobody would in that situation. He told me everything that night and I cried with him and then I convinced him that Les Palmer could be a prosperous painter even while Tony Stephens hid away. He believed me. I believed me.

– I didn’t know what it would lead to, I swear. I just wanted him to be happy.


Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

August 20 2005,

Morning: 0 out of 10

Afternoon: 0 out of 10

Evening: 0 out of 10

Fucking A I think I made a mistake I fucking hate it up here Tallahassee is so horrible I mean it was good the first week living in my own apartment like a new place without all the old memories and crap just playing video games and just relaxing not thinking about my mom or dad or friends or Shamble’s or any of that shit but then a few days ago I was sitting on the couch playing Prince of Persia and the walls started closing in on me like I was in a fucking garbage disposal and the place started feeling like it was running out of air like I was on a leaky spaceship or something and I dont even know what the fuck Im talking about but I went outside to get some air and realized how fucking empty this goddamn city is how secluded and stagnant the air smells so stale up here like its recycled or something and its like a ghost town right now with school not starting for another two weeks and I think I might have moved up here too early because I feel like Ive completely regressed to my old self in just a couple days like I can’t even organize my mind right now and I keep trying but whenever I close my eyes and try to think I just imagine myself getting in my car and turning onto the I4 exit over on Monroe and hitting the gas until my car smashes into something rocky and immovable and shoots me through the windshield and splatters my brains on the concrete and just ends all of this crap so I can fucking sleep I havent slept in fucking days and I just want to not go back to this pounding in my head and chest and the thoughts like the whole worlds out to get me are coming back and it’s the same what’s the point of any of this shit type of thoughts and the urges the fucking urges to just do the stupidest shit possible and fucking consume consume consume consume consume everything I drank three 40’s of OE last night walking down the street and talking to myself about I don’t even remember what the fuck and walked right by a campus cop and he didnt even say anything and I really wish he had because I dont need enablers right now I need somebody to stop me because I dont want to get like this again I dont think Ill survive it this time I really fucking dont think

Click For Parts 93-98

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Written by patrickandersonjr

June 18, 2012 at 9:00 am

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